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The New York TimesA brilliant insight into the way Arab societies work. A healthy corrective, a thought-provoking study.
— David K. Shipler
As the violence of the Middle East has come to America, many Westerners are stunned and confounded by this new form of mayhem that appears to be a feature of Arab societies. This important book explains how Arabs are closed in a circle defined by tribal, religious, and cultural traditions. David Pryce-Jones examines the forces which “drive the Arabs in their dealings with each other and with the West.” In the postwar world, he argues, the Arabs reverted to age-old tribal and kinship structures, from which they ...
As the violence of the Middle East has come to America, many Westerners are stunned and confounded by this new form of mayhem that appears to be a feature of Arab societies. This important book explains how Arabs are closed in a circle defined by tribal, religious, and cultural traditions. David Pryce-Jones examines the forces which “drive the Arabs in their dealings with each other and with the West.” In the postwar world, he argues, the Arabs reverted to age-old tribal and kinship structures, from which they have been unable to escape. In tribal society, loyalty is extended to close kin and other members of the tribe. The successful nation-state—the model that Westerners understand—generates broader loyalties, but the tribal world has no institutions that have evolved by common consent for the general good. Those who seek power achieve it by plotting secretly and ruthlessly eliminating their rivals. In the Arab world, violence is systemic. "This is a healthy corrective, a thought-provoking study. And Mr. Pryce-Jones has done his research, bringing a wealth of reading to his task; the book is extensively documented, with a good section of reference notes."—David K. Shipler, New York Times Book Review. "Acute insights into how the Middle East works, or fails to work. This is definitely a book to be read, if also one to be thought about carefully and rather critically."—David Morgan, Times Literary Supplement.
|Note to the Reader|
|Preface to the 2002 Edition|
|1||Tribal Society and Its Legacy||21|
|2||Shame and Honor||34|
|4||Power Challenging and Careerism||91|
|5||Men and Women||122|
|6||The Turkish Example||138|
|8||The Impact of Nazism||184|
|9||The Impact of Communism||222|
|10||Arabia and Oil||257|
|11||The Issue of Palestine||280|
|13||Image and Identity||369|
Posted January 5, 2003
This is a very interesting and most timely study of an extremely demanding subject. Yet nonetheless, a subject that all Westerners need to have an understanding of should they wish to in any way comprehend what exactly is going on in the Middle East together with the mindset in the Arab world in relation to the `war against terrorism', and what underlies and contributes to the spread of Islamic fundamentalism. We are presented with a plethora of uncomfortable facts about the Middle East, including a rather perturbing picture of the philosophies within Arab/Islamic tribal society which have provided many a fertile ground for the spreading of fundamentalist Islam. This book is a well written and serious analysis of this subject and one is lead to understand the hatred of the West & Israel indoctrinated through generation after generation of the Arab peoples. I do not agree with all the author's statements but it is difficult to argue that many of his revelations are extremely pertinent to the times in which we live. Whilst this is not essentially a book about Islam, it's inherent place in this study about Arab society cannot be ignored. The terms `losing face', `saving face' and `honour' are endemic to the peoples studied here. We see how they relate to decision making, attitudes and how `dishonesty' can be justified in certain circumstances. One disturbingly sees a uniform level of savagery is prominent in the Arab world. Illustrated too is the dramatic list of the murdered Arab leaders from 1948 to the present time. Some of this study will no doubt disturb some readers whilst at the same time opening their eyes to a culture which is completely foreign to what most Westerners are familiar with. Whilst this might precipitate an understanding of the Arab/Islamic mindset and the reasons behind their lifestyles and some violent activities, I feel that the author has not really drawn the fine line between understanding and justification. A distinction which I feel needs to be made before we go along the line of adopting the principle of "one man's terrorist being another man's freedom fighter". (This is commendably dealt with in an excellent book by Alan M. Dershowitz entitled "Why Terrorism Works".) This principle usually brings to mind the Palestinian-Israeli issue, but that does not do justice to combatting the numerous outbreaks of violence/terrorism involving Moslems in Algeria, Afghanistan, Armenia, Bangladesh, Egypt, Ethiopia, Fiji, France, India, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Niger, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, Turkey, Yemen and Yugoslavia. Whilst it is an indisputable fact that not all Moslems are terrorists, the terrorists in virtually all of these matters have all regrettably been Moslems. Having drawn what I consider such essential distinctions and observations, I conclude in saying that this is indeed a very worthwhile study for those who are relatively new to this subject. I highly recommend another book along these lines by Ramon Bennett entitled "Philistine; The Great Deception". If you can get a copy of the latter book, then please do.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 15, 2002
Having lived in the Middle East for close to thirty years I have spent a lot of time puzzling over Arab behavior.I have been especially perplexed by what it seems to me is the tendency to care more for harming the other than for doing benefit to oneself. David Pryce -Jones opened up for me paths of interpretation and explanation which I had not known .His conception of Arab society as a closed circle which does not really open to wider worlds , which is endlessly engaged in tribal arguments confirms to what I have seen in the Arab nations relation to Israel. When offered friendship , peace, land and a new better way of life for themselves, the Palestinians chose instead ( and more than once ) violence , terror , and abuse of the other. Pryce- Jones too gives an understanding of why despite all the oil revenues and opportunities the Arab world has not been able to truly benefit from its encounter with modernity.Deep cultural and religious patterns make escape from a world of backwardness impossible. I write all this with deep regret and sorrow , and very great concern for the future of that part of the Middle East which I especially love, Israel. How I wonder can we make peace and friends with neighbors who seem so determined in hanging on to past resentments and hopes of revenge ? I do not know the answer. I pray that God will help us all.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 27, 2008
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